After four days of secret negotiations, U.S. diplomats on Wednesday initially touted then later scrambled to defend their role in forging an agreement that they said contained extraordinary Chinese promises. Chinese officials, by contrast, broke their official silence on Chen by firing a broadside complaining about U.S. interference in China's internal affairs. The Foreign Ministry demanded an apology, which State Department officials declined to give.
Friends of Chen criticized U.S. officials for leaving him unaccompanied at the Chinese hospital, where he was treated for a foot injury.
Fuming over the United States' acknowledgment that it had sheltered Chen, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, "The U.S. method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China."According to the state-run news agency Xinhua, Liu added: "China demands that the United States apologize over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible and give assurances that such incidents will not happen again.
Councilor Dai Bingguo asserted China's right to determine how best to run its society. "I wish to point out in particular that a fundamental way to manage state to state relations is . . . to respect each other's sovereignty . . . and choice of social system," Dai said. "No one should expect the Chinese to leave their own path."
Activists' fears over Chen's fate mounted, and they expressed increasing alarm — fueled by a series of Twitter updates — that what seemed like a human rights victory was spiraling quickly into a worst-case scenario.
Chen was no longer under U.S. protection, they noted, and it was not clear whether he had left of his own free will or under coercion. While U.S. officials said they had been promised access to Chen in the hospital, Britain's Channel 4 news quoted a conversation with him in which he seemed confused and upset that no American diplomats were around.
"Nobody from the [U.S.] embassy is here. I don't understand why. They promised to be here," Channel 4 quoted Chen as saying.